Dialectical-behaviour therapy (DBT)
Dialectical-behaviour therapy (DBT) combines cognitive and behavioural therapy, incorporating methodologies from various practices including Mindfulness techniques. DBT was originally developed by Dr Marsha Linehan for women who engaged in self-harming and suicidal behaviour (Linehan, 1993a, 1993b). It was later shown in a number of randomized controlled clinical trials to be effective for individuals suffering from a particular type of character or personality problem called borderline personality disorder (BPD).
DBT assumes that clients suffering from BPD lack important capabilities such as sufficient interpersonal skills, emotional and self-regulation capabilities and the ability to tolerate distress. Problem behaviours such as deliberate self harm and suicidal behaviour are conceptualized as coping strategies that individuals use in order to manage unregulated emotions. In DBT, people are taught skills that help them regulate their emotions and manage interpersonal situations effectively. During DBT the psychologist adopts both a validating and problem-solving approach to enhance clients’ motivation for change.
Individuals are taught skills that cover four domains; distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, emotional regulation and mindfulness. In the therapy sessions, the therapist coaches the person to use these new skills in situations in their everyday life to manage their emotions more effectively. The goal of the therapeutic treatment is to help people to stop using self-damaging behaviours as a means of regulating their emotions and to build more adaptive coping skills. The overall aim of Dialectical-behaviour therapy is to help people develop a ‘life worth living.’
Linehan, M. M. (1993a). Cognitive Behavioural Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: Guilford Press.
Linehan, M. M. (1993b). Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: Guilford Press.
McKay et al. (2019). The dialectical behavior therapy skills workbook: Practical DBT exercises for learning mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance. New Harbinger Publications.